-- Steve Handelsman has the story from Washington.
WASHINGTON -- Five days after he picked Medicare reformer Paul Ryan as his running mate, Mitt Romney put that massive entitlement and the controversy over its future front and center in the race for the White House.
Then Romney dropped a bomb about his personal taxes: He's paid just 13% for years.
The GOP presidential hopeful made Medicare a focus with a surprise presentation during a stop in South Carolina, writing on a white board: "Bankrupt" and "Solvent", contrasting the Obama plan with his own.
"Which of these two do you think is better? Going bankrupt or being solvent? Well obviously, being solvent," Romney stated. "And we're going to get a lot of support from people who understand that Medicare should be protected for current seniors as well as for the next generation."
Romney's message to Medicare users, and any American over 55, is he won't change their program, but to everyone younger he is promising change, including a voucher option for private coverage.
"It voucher-izes medicare - it shifts costs to seniors," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney quickly countered. "Seniors on average will see costs rise by $6400 per year. Not the right policy."
Distracting attention from Medicare was Romney surprisingly revealed the bottom lines from ten years of his tax returns he still won't release.
"Every year I've paid at least 13 percent and if you add in addition the amount that goes to charity, why the number gets well above 20 percent," he stated.
The tax rate for millionaires like Romney is 35 percent on regular income.
The Obama campaign quickly repeated their demand that Romney release his returns.